Case Studies

Kerala women challenging men in coconut plucking

Coconut plucking which has traditionally been a male dominated practice, women in Kerala are now putting a tough competition... 

Kerala women challenging men in coconut plucking

ICAR-Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), Kozhikode has recently initiated a step towards empowering women through training in coconut plucking. Now, coconut plucking will no longer be considered a male bastion. Their female counterparts will give them a knife-edge competition as first batch of ‘Friends of Coconut’ completed their six day training at the IISR’s Peruvannamuzhi Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in Kozhikode (Calicut), Kerala recently.

The institute recently conducted an ‘all women’ training programme on coconut climbing for a group of 20 women (20-35 years). The training was organised as part of the ‘Friends of Coconut Tree’ programme being implemented by the Coconut Development Board to train unemployed youth in the art of climbing coconut trees and caring for them. KVK, Peruvannamuzhi is the first to conduct a training programme exclusively for women as part of the Friends of Coconut Tree programme of the Board.

The programme covered introduction to coconut palm, climate, soil requirements and varieties, sessions on climbing machine-main parts, working and trial, nutrient management, recycling of palm waste, inter-cropping and mixed cropping, among other related issues. Besides, practical lessons on climbing coconut trees, sessions were also held on harvesting, tender and mature nut identification, identification of pests and disease of coconut and their management, crown cleaning aspects, seed nut procurement, safe handling of seed nuts and tender nuts, coconut nursery and its management among other skills.

Physical exercise towards the beginning of each day’s training was another highlight of the programme. According to the trainees, coconut climbing is an easy task and they felt no physical exhaustion while using the machine. During the last session of the training, a ‘Coconut Olympics’ was also conducted in which the trainees were able to climb the palms within 48- 50 seconds, a feat equivalent to their male counterparts.

“The training gave us a sense of confidence that we can do anything if we have the will. Moreover, we are now able to earn a good amount by spending three to four hours a day,” said, Aneela Mathew from Peruvannamuzhi, a woman who participated in the training programme. “Inspired by our success, many women are approaching us for training in coconut climbing using machines,” Aneela added. “By using the machine I can climb 25 to 30 trees a day and manage to earn around 400 rupees within three hours,’ said Reeja VG, another women trainee who has taken up coconut plucking as a livelihood.

“It’s an ironical fact that Kerala, the land of coconut, is suffering from shortage of coconut pluckers for the past few years. As a solution for this, the Krishi Vigyan Kendra of IISR has conducted a series of training programmes in coconut climbing using machines in collaboration with Coconut Development Board. Many women are now taking up it as a profession and contributing a good share to their family income,” a senior scientist at Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), Kozhikode said.

“KVK is now in the process of establishing a ‘Coconut Climbers’ Bank’ in which the people trained from KVK can register their names. Anyone who needs the services of a coconut climber can contact the bank and avail the services of registered coconut climbers in their own at a reasonable rate. Thus, this scheme will be beneficial to both the customer and climber,” another scientist at the institute said.

The Changing Face of Rural India